Fired Up About Keeping the Workplace Safe

Fast facts on how to manage fires, falls and first aid to maintain occupational health and safety

Issue: Sep 2012

Occupational health and safety is a priority at CapitaLand so staff are trained to respond to emergencies
Occupational health and safety is a priority at CapitaLand so staff are trained to respond to emergencies
Photo credit: http://www.unisigns.co.uk

In 2011, there were 9, 939 reported cases of workplace injuries in Singapore according to the Workplace Safety & Health report by the Workplace Safety & Health Council and Ministry of Manpower. The numbers were down by 1.9 per cent from 2010. However, the number of falls which contributed to more than half of the total fatalities in the year actually increased.

Any time there is an accident of any kind at the workplace, productivity is not the only thing that is affected, company morale takes a plunge as well.

“Occupational health and safety (OHS) is of utmost importance to us because the well-being of every employee matters in building a positive work environment. For a company like CapitaLand that is built on the credo ‘Building People’, caring for the health and well-being of staff and stakeholders is a priority. The company is particularly vigilant when it comes to ensuring workplace safety,” said Mr Tan Seng Chai, Deputy Chief Corporate Officer, CapitaLand Limited.

To meet and even exceed OHS legal requirements, CapitaLand has in place a robust OHS Management System which includes promoting a culture of individual ownership and responsibility for OHS management, and seeking the active support of its stakeholders. At CapitaLand Limited, staff are also sent for first aid courses with the Singapore First Aid Society.

It is always good to know what to do in an emergency. So, here are some tips to keep the workplace safe.

1. Fire prevention

The adage “prevention is better than cure” is something especially applicable to OHS. In 2011, the Singapore Civil Defence Force (SCDF) responded to 4,470 cases of fire outbreaks. The number was the lowest recorded in a decade and vigilance may well be the key.

Whether at home, in a public place, in the office or at worksites, always ensure that all exits and passageways are unobstructed and unlocked. Corridors and stairways should also be free of clutter that may block safe evacuation.

2. Electrical Fires

Overloading electrical outlets leads to overheating of plugs which may cause fires
Overloading electrical outlets leads to overheating of plugs which may cause fires
Photo credit: www.agentknowhow.com

There are many causes of fires. In modern situations, electrical causes of fires can be as prevalent as others. So, do not overload electrical outlets with too many extensions because it can lead to overheating of plugs. Ensure that electrical wiring are insulated and maintained since cracked or broken extension socket outlets can cause electricity leakage. On that note, all electrical installation, maintenance and repair work should be done by a licensed electrical worker.

To prevent electrocution, ensure that all appliances are in working order because an unearthed plug can cause electric shocks when there is a short circuit in the appliance. A Residual Current Circuit Breaker (RCCB) can prevent electrocution by cutting off electricity supply immediately when leakages are detected. Make sure your RCCB is properly installed and functioning. Finally, keep electrical appliances away from water because water conducts electricity and touching these appliances while being in contact can cause electrocution.

3. Equipping against fires

Pull the pin, aim at the base of the fire, spray in a sweeping motion – these are the steps to the proper use of a fire extinguisher
Pull the pin, aim at the base of the fire, spray in a sweeping motion – these are the steps to the proper use of a fire extinguisher

“Where there is smoke, there is fire”. So, a smoke detector in the office can be a valuable early warning system for detecting fires. Every home and office should have fire extinguishers as well and everyone taught to use the fire extinguisher.

The acronym P.A.S.S encapsulates the instructions for the proper use of the fire extinguisher. First, pull the pin which usually has the inspection tag attached to it. Next, aim the nozzle at the base of the fire. Then, squeeze the handle and sweep back and forth as you spray. A standard fire extinguisher has less than 30 seconds of spray time.

If you are ever in a building on fire, the first thing to do is to leave the building in a calm and orderly manner. Do not ignore the fire alarm and do not return to your work station to retrieve your valuables.

“The two fire wardens on each floor who have been briefed and trained by the building manager will help to evacuate the people. One will be in front to lead everyone out. The other will be the last to leave to make sure no one is left behind,” said Sharon Tan, Administrative Assistant, CapitaLand Limited, who is trained as a fire warden to learn how to use the fire extinguisher. “We are familiar with all the exits in the building.”

If possible, contain the fire by closing the door to the room in which in the fire is in and call SCDF at 995 for help. If the fire is manageable, try to put it out with a fire extinguisher if it poses no harm to yourself or others.

5. When smoke gets in your eyes

If you are trapped in a room with thick smoke, go low. Crawl on your hands and knees to the nearest exit because smoke naturally rises, leaving about 30 to 60 centimetres of fresh air at ground level that is free of toxic contents.

6. If you’re trapped

If you cannot find an exit, do not panic. Go into a safe room, preferably one with a window facing the road, and shut the door behind you. Cover the gap between the door and the floor with cloth to prevent smoke from seeping in.

7. If you’re on fire

If your clothes are on fire, take them off. Otherwise, stop running; drop to the floor, covering your face with your hands to prevent inhaling the smoke fumes; and roll around to put out the fire. Rolling deprives the fire of the oxygen it needs.

Stop, drop and roll if your clothes catch fire, this should help put out the flames
Stop, drop and roll if your clothes catch fire, this should help put out the flames
Photo credit: www.halifax.ca

8. Preventing falls, slips and Injuriest

Generally, working in an office gives you fewer occasions to fall or be injured but that does not mean that it cannot happen. Keeping the work station, especially the common walking areas clutter-free can prevent trips and falls. When lifting heavy boxes or objects, squat and lift with your legs instead of bending over the objects. Lifting with your back can cause back injuries or muscle strain.

First aid can save lives because the first few minutes after a person collapses are critical and an ambulance may not arrive in time
First aid can save lives because the first few minutes after a person collapses are critical and an ambulance may not arrive in time

9. First Aid

For example, a blocked airway can kill someone in three to four minutes. An ambulance may take longer than that to arrive. Knowing how to clear someone’s airways while help comes can mean the difference between life and death.

“I found the first aid course, especially the CPR and handling choking very useful. Heart attacks can happen to anyone, anytime,” said Tan who is also a first-aider.

Within minutes of a heart attack, brain death occurs unless the heart begins beating again. Without a defibrillator which uses electricity to shock the heart into action, the best chance of survival is through the administration of Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation (CPR) to restart the heart. CPR and the use of an automated external defibrillator (AED) within five minutes of the collapse, increases the chances of survival by 30 to 50 per cent. Without these, every passing minute reduces the chances of survival by seven to 10 per cent. After 10minutes, few are ever revived, according to the American Heart Association. That is why CapitaMalls have AEDs readily available.

Other tips Tan found practical was how to deal with nose bleeds.

“I always thought that you had to tilt the head back. But in truth, that would make the blood flow into the throat and make the person choke. You should actually bend over and pinch the bridge of the nose to stop the bleed,” she shared.

10. Sit Tight, Sit Right

Ergonomic work chairs were procured for employees to provide them with better support and boost their occupational wellbeing
Ergonomic work chairs were procured for employees to provide them with better support and boost their occupational wellbeing
Photo credit: http://seatingdiscounters.com

Since a large part of an office worker’s time is spent sitting at a work station, how a work station is configured and how you sit can contribute to your occupational health. Improper sitting positions for extended periods of time can lead to back, neck and even circulation problems.

Of course, no matter how great your posture or work station is, do not forget to get up and move about every hour or so. Sitting requires muscles to be held in a fixed position. This causes blood vessels in the muscles to be squeezed, reducing blood flow, leading to fatigue and making those muscles more prone to injury. Shifting your position regularly; and getting up to move or stretch help to alleviate this problem.

So, make sure that your desk allows your hands, arms and wrist to be in a straight line parallel to the floor. Your chair and monitor should be at a height that allows you to look straight ahead at the monitor. When seated, your chair should allow you to have your feet firmly planted on the ground. Otherwise, make sure you have a foot rest. Your back, thigh and hips should also be fully supported. At CapitaLand, Occupational Health and Safety (OHS) is of such great importance that it bought new ergonomic work chairs for all 200 of its employees at the corporate office. It also worked to adjust the work stations so they were more ergonomically aligned.

 

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